Vietnamese cinema has only recently become known outside of the East Bloc countries. The first public showing of a Vietnamese feature film in the United States was that of When the Tenth Month Comes at the 1985 Hawai'i International Film Festival in Honolulu. At the 1987 Festival, a consortium of American film institutions was formed with Nguyen Thu, General Director of the Vietnam Cinema Department, to organize the Vietnam Film Project — the first attempt to introduce an entire new film industry to America. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief description of Vietnamese cinema along with an appreciation of its major characteristics and themes. I base my views on my two visits to the Vietnam Cinema Department in Hanoi — for one week in 1987 and two in 1988 — on behalf of the Hawai'i International Film Festival. During those visits, I was able to view a large number of documentaries and feature films and to discuss Vietnamese cinema with a number of department staff members. I was able to obtain more interviews during the visits of Vietnamese to the Hawai'i International Film Festival in Honolulu. This article cannot claim to be an adequate introduction to the history of Vietnamese cinema, a task I hope will be undertaken with the aid of my informants and the sources I list as completely as possible.
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